Latte Levy: 'Bigger businesses should be taking the load'

Latte Levy: 'Bigger businesses should be taking the load'

Industry response was mixed to the Government yet again steering clear of a 25p so called ‘Latte levy’ on takeaway cups with calls for both independent operators and the large chains to take more action.  

Chancellor Philip Hammond said the industry would need to make “sufficient progress” to avoid further action.

Martin Kersh, executive director of the Food Packaging Association (FPA), welcomed the news but said that it was time for some of the independent and small chain operators to get more involved with recycling.

“We would like to see the independent sector and smaller chains get involved with the programme. There are opportunities for smaller retailers to post cups back,” he told Coffee Business World. 

“The independent sector accounts for more servings of coffee than the branded sector and that means more cups than the branded sector. Everybody has got to get involved and if they do I think the public will get into the habit of disposing of their cups in coffee shops.”

He said that the larger chains were taking action with Costa, Starbucks, Pret, Greggs, Caffe Nero all taking each others cups for recycling.

This is the second time the Government has rejected the Environment Audits Committee call for a ‘latte levy’ and a total ban on disposable cups by 2023(Coffee Business World 14/3/2018).

It has already welcomed the ‘Paper Cup Manifesto’, the joint initiative from the FPA and the Paper Cup Recovery and Recycling Group, which is committed to ensuring the UK population has access to information and schemes to sustainably recycle paper cups by 2020.

Kersh said that there is now 100% capacity for recycling takeaway cups and it is making “huge strides” in increasing collection rates.

However, Boston Tea Party (BTP) brand director Anita Atkins told Coffee Business World that recycling was not the answer and was disappointed that the Government did not take any action to help change customer behaviour.

The 22-strong coffee shop chain banned the use disposable cups earlier this year which has seen a 24% drop in its takeaway trade.

She refuted claims that the independent sector should be put under more pressure to take action as many of them are small owner-operator businesses.

“I think bigger businesses should be taking the load,” she said.

“But the problem is the big guys are not going to make a change that is going to risk their sales. It would take someone incredibly brave at the top to make that happen.”

She has urged customers to vote with their feet to force the larger operators to take further action.

“The only way the big guys are going to change what they are up to is by hurting them in their pockets. They need to vote with their feet, ” she said.

Coffee trainer Raf Mlodzianowski, consultant to European Coffee Expo and Coffee Business World columnist, said he supported the idea of the Latte Levy but not its proposed implementation. 

He also said many coffee shop operators were facing cost pressures. 

“I think cafes do need to up the cost per cup to help remedy this but they need the money not the government,” he said.

“Personally I would like to see cafes not offering takeaway coffees and for people to sit down, take a break and enjoy a cup of coffee.”

The British Coffee Association (BCA) welcomed the Government decision as Chris Stemman, executive director said: “Disposable paper cups are fully recyclable and contribute to just 0.7% of total paper packaging waste. The UK coffee industry is working hard to create a circular economy and remains committed to achieving its own sustainability goals, which include zero waste packaging by 2025 with 100% recyclable or re-usable packaging across all products and 0% of waste going to landfill.”

While trade association UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “As the Chancellor rightly said, a latte levy would not necessarily help tackle waste but would increase costs for businesses and, ultimately, consumers. Avoiding this unnecessary additional tax is very welcome.”

The Government has already unveiled plans to ban the distribution and sale of plastic straws and drinks stirrers. The plan is subject to a consultation launched by environment secretary Michael Gove.


What the Chancellor said:

He called on the industry to make “sufficient progress” over the issue of reuseable cups.

He said he had “looked carefully” at introducing a levy on plastic cups and pointed out that this was “not just for coffee, but for all types of beverage”.

“I have concluded that a tax in isolation would not, at this point, deliver a decisive shift from disposable to reusable cups across all beverage types,” he said.

“I will monitor carefully the effectiveness of the action the takeaway drinks industry is already taking to reduce single-use plastics and I will return to this issue if sufficient progress is not made.”


  • Tim Cox, drinks innovation manager, at Costa Express and Paul Darlison, head of operations, Nero Express, Caffè Nero is a member of the European Coffee Expo's Steering Panel.
  • For more information on European Coffee Expo, contact Sukhvir Hayre on +44 (0) 203 668 9809 or email and check out stand and sponsorship options.


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